Well, here we go again. Out in Denver where the Democratic National Convention will be held in August, a city government meeting was supposed to be opened with the traditional singing of the National Anthem.
However, a vocally talented lady who was chosen to do the honors -she just happened to be dark skinned - instead substituted words that now have been identified in the media as the "Black National Anthem."
I guess I must have missed that particular part of American History because I never knew there was a "black" national anthem that is different from the traditional version, which I was under the impression was for everyone who calls themselves an American.
In fact, I don't know of any words in the National Anthem that could be mistaken for meaning it is only for one race, not all races. Hold it, there is that version that goes along with an old joke about an Hispanic guy who couldn't get a good seat at the ball game and a scalper sells him one on the top of the flag pole and he is overjoyed because the game starts with the crowd singing "Jose, Can You See!?"
Other than that, when I took American History in grade school, high school, and college I thought the whole point of all the words and laws that were written, and let's not forget the worst war ever fought by the US, was to make us ALL EQUAL!
What happened? Who lied to me? Was it my teachers way back when? Was it Abraham Lincoln, the abolitionists, Civil Rights legislation, the Emancipation Proclamation? What? Who?
How did this escape my attention? I have lived in mixed neighborhoods nearly my entire life, count a number of black Americans as my friends as well as my neighbors, and yet I have never, ever, heard anyone anywhere sing the Black National Anthem. Until now.
Check it out yourself. At least as long as that web link lasts.
I didn't make it up, but to hear the news announcers talking about it today you'd think that everyone in America knew about this except me.
Well, here is my response. In the interest of equality I want a White National Anthem.
Wait, wait, we can't do that. It would be seen as racist and bigoted and exclusionary. Right? I mean everyone else can have some sort of song just for them, unless you are white.
But how about if you are an amalgam that just happens to turn out white? Or off white? Or a whiter shade of dark? Like Barack Obama. How about that?
How about if we take these amalgams apart, single them out for their unique characteristics and go from there?
Let's start with me. I am essentially Scots-Irish, with some German and a hint of French way, way back.
So first I would like to request Scotland the Brave as the Scots-American National Anthem. Great song. Very inspiring.
Then let's see, how about the Irish. Something with Whisky in it, or a poem to hit on our most popular urban myth attributes. Oh, I've got it. This is for my late maternal grandmother who came over from Ireland by herself when she was 16 years old and made a good life for her offspring - An Emigrant's Daughter.
Sad, but hauntingly beautiful.
For you grandma. I miss you. We could do Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye since there is an Americanized version of the music with different lyrics but I think it reminds me too much of the present situation.
Now let's see. German. No, not Deutschland uber alles, which isn't really the title, just the first lines. The actual title is Das Deutschlandlied. It actually was written back when the US was young, but today has some bad connotations from WWII movies. How about Ein Prosit? That should keep things on a friendly level.
Now France. La Marseillaise? Nah, too much like something out of Casablanca, besides which it is the French National Anthem. How about J'Attendrai by Jean Sablon from the movie The Good Year? I like the movie, I like the music. Why not? If you aren't happy with that find me a good song that goes with wine and cheese.
Italy. Let's see what will we do for my Italian friends. Que Sera? Maybe. How about Dean Martin "When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pizza Pie" etc. etc. Hey, it's a lot less antagonistic than the Theme From the Godfather.
How about a Jewish National Anthem? Not for Israel, it has its own. But for Jewish people who live in the US. My first choice would be Hava Nagila but that's only because I like to dance at weddings.
I'm also open to further suggestions on that, plus anything from any Spanish speaking group - Cubans might have different priorities than Puerto Ricans or Mexicans for instance.
You get my point don't you? This is supposed to be one country with one set of values, and those values are best expressed in our COMMON National Anthem. Where else are we going to find one anthem for people from all the Asian countries who are Americans, or for all South Americans, Central Americans, and African people from other parts of the continent other than the interior?
Should we really have a different anthem for each of the original Native American tribes, since they sure weren't one big happy family when the Europeans arrived? And I barely got started on western Europe, not mention eastern Europe.
If we go off on tangents then we are not a country, we are just a collection of people hanging around the same geographic area, taking advantage of whatever comes our way, until we decide to just change things around to our liking.
Lots of people did that in the past, in other places. That's why many people came to America in the first place, and why many others stayed even if they came here against their will. I'm not sure my family would be here but for the fact that economic conditions in Ireland and Scotland were terrible when my father was a boy, and my Irish grandmother was a teen.
But once here, they stayed.
So let's just forget these individual anthems shall we? When someone asks you to sing the National Anthem you know just what to sing, and if you want to sing something else later on, be my guest. Other people just might like it if given half a chance.
Just don't call it the National Anthem.
Thursday, July 03, 2008